India looks to exploit wind technology export potential

INDIA: It is fair to say that Indian wind turbine manufacturers have yet to fully explore the opportunities for export to foreign markets.

East to West: Suzlon turbines in Minnesota
East to West: Suzlon turbines in Minnesota

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The amount of installed capacity by the nation’s turbine producers abroad is minimal, with most of it being undertaken by Suzlon alone.

The world’s third biggest wind turbine manufacturer and India’s first is unsurprisingly the country’s leading exporter in terms of installed capacity, pipeline and turbine sizes.

Its export installations amount to 10GW, and its largest export market is the US, where it is responsible for just over 2.86GW of installed capacity, and a further 5GW is on the order books. 

Suzlon’s other key export markets are Germany, France and then China. It is also supplying turbines to Brazil for a 218MW project and plans to build a factory there if further orders are won.

Other than Suzlon, India’s turbine exports amount to a mere 28MW, over 23MW of that exported last year.

Sri Lanka is emerging as an important target for India’s wind power industry thanks to its proximity and a wind resource potential in excess of 2GW — Suzlon has exported 10MW of capacity there since 2009.

Other target markets identified by the Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers Association (IWTMA) include Thailand, Vietnam, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Uruguay and several African nations.

Export ability

Within India’s wind power industry there are five or six domestic firms that own the technology rights and are, therefore, able to export their machines.

These include Kenersys, the former German manufacture RBSconsult bought by Indian industrial conglomerate Kalyani Group, RRB Energy, which manufactures turbines from 600kW to 1.8MW, engineering firm Shriram EPC, Southern Wind Farms, and Pioneer.

Recent interest in India has come from Uruguay. Government officials visited RRB’s factory in Chennai to explore potential collaboration, and energy minister, Roberto Kreimerman, said RRB could provide Uruguay with a technical partner to help develop its wind potential.

Any partnership would be supported by trade agreements between India and Mercusor countries Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

The wind power equipment industry in India is largely geared to smaller capacity wind turbines, typically 250kW to 1.8MW.

While demand for larger machines is being met by Suzlon, many Indian companies focus on finding export markets for smaller turbines, such as community wind farms in the US that need turbines in the 250kW to 750kW range.

Encouraging more component manufacturing is one of several critical areas identified by IWTMA for improvement in the industry, says its chairman, DV Giri.

Ramping up domestic component manufacture would reduce reliance on imports and drive down production costs, positioning India as a source of competitively priced generators and supplies.

But if India is to develop its own capacity, let alone pursue export opportunities, it must establish an environmental job market that is sufficient to keep pace with the growing wind power industry, says Giri.

Primarily, India needs more trained engineers to build farms and carry out operations and maintenance, but skilled production engineers and technicians are also needed to fortify the supply chain. 

Over the next three to five years, many of India’s wind farms will be liable for repowering — dismantling older turbines for replacement with larger, more modern machines.

A potential export opportunity could be to recondition these older turbines and supply them to emerging wind power markets, at reduced costs and warranties, according to Giri.

Developing economies, especially, are interested in competitively priced smaller capacity turbines, he says.

He believes India can leverage its numerous trade links and agreements to supply many of these nations. But, the second-hand turbine export market is little more than a concept and the country will need to adopt a broad approach if it is to maximise export potential.

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